Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
What: Oil prices have slid in early trading today because Saudi Arabia came out strongly against cutting its own production. Early Monday, the price of WTI crude had fallen 2.5% to $55.70, and Brent crude was down 1.7% to $60.32, both down nearly 50% from their highs during the summer.
So what: Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali al-Naimi said his country would not cut production no matter how low the price of oil goes. He said, "it is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is." He went on to say that even if oil goes to $20 per barrel, they would keep production where it is.
Now what: This is terrible news for U.S. shale producers like Whiting Petroleum, Continental Resources, and Hess Corporation, which together own a large majority of acreage in the Bakken shale play. They can't economically drill new wells for anywhere near $20 per barrel. If OPEC isn't going to give in on production, shale producers will likely have to, just because they have higher costs than many producers.
Short term, I think there's a lot more pain coming in oil markets because someone has to cut supply for the market to return to balance. As we stand today, inventory keeps building, which will put downward pressure on prices. Small shale producers are in the worst position because they're tied to their investment in newer shale plays, which may not be economical in coming years. This is an area I'd stay away from, and if you are looking to invest in the oil market at depressed prices, it's service providers, not explorers, where the safer bets can be found.